February 14th is not only Valentine’s Day, but it is also Library Lovers’ Day! Originating out of Australia in the early 2000s, the day was designated to raise awareness regarding the services libraries offer and the role they play as accessible resources to education.
Finegold Alexander Architects has been at the forefront of library design for over 30 years. The firm is sought out for our expertise in library programming and design for renovations, additions, and phased construction. Working closely with our stakeholders to gain a deep understanding of what they do, who they serve, and what needs to happen in each space, each library project reflects the community it is designed for.
Principal Ellen Anselone, AIA, LEED is Finegold Alexander Architect’s library project leader. Her impressive portfolio features Christa McAuliffe Branch Library, Babson College’s Horn Library, and award-winning work for Stoughton Public Library, Holyoke Public Library and Westwood Public Library, just to list a few. Whether new construction, adaptive reuse, preservation or restoration, the projects are transformative in terms of placemaking, identity, brand, and the user experience. In recognition of the holiday, we sat down with Ellen to hear what she thinks makes library projects unique.
Q: What was the first library project you worked on? When did you know it would become one of your passion areas?
E: “The first library project I ever worked on was the Newburyport Public Library, led by now Principal Emeritus Jim Alexander, FAIA, LEED AP. The project consisted of designing a new addition onto a historic building, the 1771 Tracy Mansion, with the addition ultimately doubling the size of the building. I remember working very closely with the building committee, library director, staff and engaged members of the community to develop a program. I think that is when it became clear to me that library projects were special and unique; being able to see the community reaction and working on a project for the people. Luckily in these types of projects, I’ve found that people are excited and enthusiastic which makes it an especially enjoyable experience.
Q: What do you find unique about library projects? How do they differ from say developer or higher education projects?
E: What is fun is that each library is different, and they have their own way of doing things. No two programs are exactly the same, because each town has their own needs and wants, and community engagement plays such a visceral role in library design. For example, some libraries may possess valuable archival collections and require a program that carefully preserves the materials, while a library in another town may have hardly any physical reference books left and focus the program around online accessibilities.
Q: Have you noticed a change in design approach, or project elements, in recent years with the increase in technology/internet?
E: Most definitely. It was interesting to be working on libraries and watch the evolution of digital media. It went from VHS tapes to digital CDs, and now we’re really focused on accessibility to downloadable technologies. Book collections have certainly shifted, or in some cases such as with that with reference books mostly, we’ve seen a slight shrink in collections but it is anticipated that it will eventually result in a small core collection of materials such as dictionaries, thesauruses, etc.
Q: Finally, what do you love most about libraries and library projects!
E: To me, I just love the idea of improving libraries for its’ users, it’s really about the people. Libraries have a special way of bringing people together and serving as a hub for a number of things, whether it be a place of solace for someone to sit down and enjoy a book, a place for groups or clubs to meet, or anything in between. And not only is it a fantastic resource to limitless information, but the library plays in important role in the town, almost acting as the glue that merges the community together.”
Check out our civic project page to read more about our library work.